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Norco and Alcohol

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Over the course of the past decade, prescription painkiller misuse has been on the rise throughout the country. As a direct result, rates of opioid-related overdose deaths have been increasing; in 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that overdose deaths in the U.S. topped 100,000 annually. In many cases, opioid overdose involves more than one chemical substance. Many individuals who use opioid narcotics like heroin, fentanyl, or painkillers combine them with another substance like alcohol or benzodiazepines. Combining painkillers and alcohol can be particularly dangerous. Because both of these substances act as central nervous system depressants, slowing vital functions like breathing and cognition, consuming them in combination can easily lead to accidental overdose. If you or someone close to you has been combining a painkiller like Norco with alcohol, it is important that some degree of professional help is sought before serious and potentially irreversible consequences occur. At Guardian Recovery we have developed an effective and individualized program of substance use recovery, providing our clients with several stages of clinical care. If you have been suffering from polydrug misuse we recommend beginning your personal journey of recovery with a short stay in one of our inpatient detox centers, and immediately transitioning into a higher level of care once you have been physically stabilized. To learn more about the addiction recovery process or to begin your own journey of healing, contact us today.

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What is Norco?

Norco is a prescription painkiller made from a combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen. Hydrocodone is an opioid narcotic pain reliever generally prescribed to treat moderate or severe pain. It can also be used as a cough suppressant. Hydrocodone is one of the most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers, and it is also one of the most widely misused. Acetaminophen is a non-opioid pain reliever and fever reducer. It is a safe and non habit-forming substance found in over-the-counter medications like Tylenol. However, taking high doses of acetaminophen can result in a range of health-related complications, including irreversible liver damage. An article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine states, “Harmless at low doses, acetaminophen has direct hepatotoxic potential when taken as an overdose and can cause acute liver injury and death from acute liver failure. Even in therapeutic doses, acetaminophen can cause transient serum aminotransferase elevations.”  Individuals who misuse Norco are at risk of various issues, ranging from liver failure to addiction and potential overdose. 

Alcohol Use & Dependence

Alcohol is the most widely used chemical substance in the U.S. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 47 percent of American adults reported drinking alcohol at least once over the course of the past month. The same survey found that nearly 86 percent of adults consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetimes. Because heavy alcohol consumption is culturally acceptable in many social circles, many individuals who struggle with alcohol use disorders are unaware that professional help has become necessary. How can you tell whether or not treatment is right for you? 

We recommend asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have you attempted to quit drinking on your own with limited or short-lived success?
  • Do you spend a significant amount of time drinking, thinking about drinking, and recovering from the effects of alcohol?
  • Do you continue to drink despite negative personal consequences, which might include problems at work or at school, issues in interpersonal relationships, or financial or legal issues?
  • Have you been instructed to stop drinking by a medical professional? Do you continue to drink alcohol in spite of this warning?

If you answered “yes” to any of the following questions, there is a good chance you are suffering from an alcohol use disorder. 

Mixing Norco & Alcohol

Mixing alcohol and any opioid painkiller is always advised against; mixing Norco and alcohol can be particularly dangerous. Not only does mixing these two substances increase the risk of fatal overdose, but combining alcohol and acetaminophen can increase the risk of permanent liver damage. The Food and Drug Administration requires that the pharmaceutical company behind Norco manufacturing include a warning label that advises against combining the medication with alcohol, as doing so can result in respiratory depression, coma, and death. If you have been combining alcohol with Norco, it is important that professional help is sought as quickly as possible. 

How Norco & Alcohol Affect the Brain

Norco produces pain relieving effects by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and blocking signals of pain. Hydrocodone, one of the active ingredients in Norco, also affects respiratory function. The drug inhibits the respiratory center in the brain, which can lead to respiratory depression (dangerously slow breathing). Alcohol directly interferes with communication pathways in the brain, slowing cognitive function and leading to problems with memory, speech, and coordination. Combining Norco and alcohol has a depressive effect on cognitive functioning, which can easily lead to accidental injury. 

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Alcohol & Norco Can Lead to Respiratory Depression

The two substances also depress the central nervous system and respiration, increasing the risk of respiratory depression and accidental overdose. Hydrocodone and alcohol affect breathing, often slowing the breathing down significantly when they have been consumed simultaneously. A study published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists reports, “Taking one oxycodone tablet together with even a modest amount of alcohol increases the risk of a potentially life-threatening side effect known as respiratory depression, which causes breathing to become extremely shallow or stop altogether, reports a study published in the Online First edition of Anesthesiology, the peer-reviewed medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). Elderly people were especially likely to experience this complication, the study found.”

Alcohol & Norco Can Lead to Liver Damage

Each Norco tablet contains 325 mg of acetaminophen. Consuming upwards of 8 tablets per day (roughly 2,600 mg) can do serious harm to the liver over time. It is recommended that an adult never consume over 5,000 mg of acetaminophen a day, and that the minimum dose be taken whenever possible. Alcohol also does damage to the liver over time. When a person consumes more alcohol than the liver can process, residual alcohol can cause fatty liver, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Combining these two substances can lead to liver damage in a relatively short period of time. 

Side Effects of Mixing Norco & Alcohol

There are many potential side effects associated with mixing Norco and alcohol. It is important to note that there are also many short and long-term consequences of ongoing substance use, ranging from increased risk of chronic illness and overdose to interpersonal problems and financial issues. 

Common side effects of mixing Norco and alcohol include:

  • Sedation.
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness. 
  • Loss of consciousness. 
  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Increased risk of overdose. 
  • Irritability and agitation. 
  • The worsening of pre-existing mental health symptoms. 
  • The development of a diagnosable substance use disorder. 
  • The development of withdrawal symptoms. 
  • Liver damage or liver failure. 

The best way to avoid the side effects of Norco and alcohol is by using Norco as prescribed, and using alcohol separately and in moderation. If you have been struggling with a substance use disorder of any type or severity, Guardian Recovery is available to help. Contact us today to learn more. 

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Treatment for Norco & Alcohol Addiction

What is the most effective treatment option for Norco and alcohol addiction? Because the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detoxification can be dangerous when left untreated, it is recommended that anyone who has been using alcohol excessively seek help from a medical detox center. The symptoms associated with opioid detoxification are generally not life-threatening, but they can be harshly unpleasant when left untreated. Once you have been physically stabilized you will transition into the next appropriate level of clinical care. In most cases, this means transitioning into an inpatient treatment center, where you will stay actively engaged in therapy for between 30 and 90 days (depending on your personal needs). While many inpatient treatment programs are therapeutically based, some offer additional treatment services including dual diagnosis treatment options, holistic care, 12 Step program immersion, and medication assisted treatment options. Finally, you will move onto continuing care, which might include a transition into an outpatient treatment program, continued one-on-one therapy, and ongoing involvement with a 12 Step program of your choosing. 

If you or someone you love has been struggling with an alcohol or opioid use disorder of any severity, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We offer an effective and individualized treatment program that addresses the consequences of substance misuse and dependence on a physical, emotional and psychological level. As soon as you make the decision to reach out for help, you will be put in touch with an experienced Treatment Advisor who will walk you through our simple, straightforward admissions process. We begin by conducting a brief pre-assessment to ensure our recovery program is a good fit. If we believe you would benefit more from a different level of care, we will point you in the right direction. Our main priority is ensuring you receive the help you need in a timely manner. We look forward to speaking with you soon and helping you begin your own personal journey of addiction recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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